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Dialogic listening


Techniques Listening > Dialogic listening

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Dialogue comes from the Greek words meaning 'through words'. It stresses communication as a two-way process whereby people seek to understand not just what is said but also what they mean.


Dialogic listening seeks to improve upon empathetic and active listening by focusing on the actual communication and seeking of true understanding. Understanding is seen as emergent rather than created. It emerges from a two-way conversation that works to connect both people in an open partnership.

The conversation does not seek to dig hard but to encircle and play with concepts, using metaphor and other expanding methods. The focus is on the here and now of what is going on between the people rather than what is going on in one person's mind or what was or what might be.


To increase your use of dialogic listening there are several methods you can use.

First, just talk more. Make time for conversation. Ask the other person to say more about what they are thinking. Look for clarity and detail. Offer likewise and listen to their requests for information. If you ask them to talk more, they will also become more interested in you and a comfortable balance of speaking and listening will emerge.

Use metaphor. Ask 'What is it like?' Take the thinking into other worlds and explore how things might work out there. Then wonder how to bring the ideas found there back into the 'real world'.

Use paraphrasing and otherwise reflect back to the other person what you are hearing and seeing. Show them their selves in the mirror of you. Discuss what you perceive and what leads you to these conclusions.

Explore what you discover about one another. Wonder together what is happening between you and the locus and dynamics of your shared understanding. Wander together through each others thoughts, emotions, needs and goals, preferences, beliefs and values, and so on.

See also

Active listening, Depth of listening

Stewart, J. and Thomas, M. (1995). "Dialogic Listening: Sculpting Mutual Meanings," in Bridges Not Walls, ed. John Stewart, 6th edition, (New York: McGraw- Hill, 1995), pp. 184-201


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